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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Wrapped-MLI: Thermal Insulation for Cryogenic Piping

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Wrapped-MLI: Thermal Insulation for Cryogenic Piping
New NASA vehicles (EDS, Orion, landers & orbiting fuel depots) need improved cryogenic propellant transfer & storage for long duration missions. Current cryogen feed line Multi-Layer Insulation (MLI) performance is 10X worse per area than tank MLI insulation. Cryogenic piping heat leak is 50 80% of cryotank heat leak, and 40 50% of LH2 is lost - about 150,000 gallons ($300,000) - during transfer, chill down & ground hold during each STS launch. Quest Product Development, teaming with Ball Aerospace, proposes to continue development of an innovative advanced insulation system, Wrapped MLI, which could provide improved thermal insulation for cryogenic feed lines. Wrapped MLI (wMLI) is high performance multilayer insulation designed for cryogenic piping that uses Quest's innovative discrete spacer technology to control layer spacing/density and reduce heat leak. The Phase I program successfully proved wMLI feasibility by designing, building and testing a wMLI prototype with a measured heat leak 3.6X lower than spiral-wrapped conventional MLI widely used for piping insulation. A wMLI prototype had a heat leak of 7.3 W/m2, or 27% of the heat leak of conventional MLI (26.7 W/m2). Modeling estimates the thermal performance of wMLI could be further improved by 3-fold, leading to a heat leak of 0.7 W/m2 (20 layers, 77K to 295K), and even larger advantages over conventional MLI piping insulation. In a Phase II program we would further develop wMLI technology with custom, molded polymer spacers, and advance the product toward commercialization via a rigorous testing program including developing advanced vacuum insulated pipe for GSE application. wMLI could provide advanced cryogen transfer line insulation and be the basis of a superior Vacuum Insulated Pipe technology. More »

Anticipated Benefits

Primary U.S. Work Locations and Key Partners

Technology Transitions

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